Admittedly I have never been a huge fan of power metal. Although really I should be because I am a nerd and a fair amount of this music can be geek metal at its finest. I mean that with the utmost respect. I have always been able to find a fair amount of power metal albums each year that I downright enjoy. Unfortunately this particular metal subcategory continues to become more and more over saturated with formulaic and manufactured bands making it increasingly difficult to weed through all the crap to find the diamonds.
Most of the contemporary power metal bands would rather try to outdo each other with the fastest, most shredding riffs possible rather than take the time to create quality music. I am anti-DragonForce and any band of that ilk. I prefer the bands that take the time to craft their music, that can seamlessly mix paces and who remember their roots. It’s like the newer era bands have forgotten that artists like Accept, Judas Priest and Dio were a huge influence on the birth of the music that they play.
Thankfully much like Accept showed on their latest album, Blind Rage, that old school elements still have a place in present-day metal, HammerFall proves that they have an undying respect for their musical origins. Sure (r)Evolution has its fair share of subgenre cliches with lyrics dealing in dragons, warriors, swords, evil incarnate and souls made of fire but the album is so much more than a bunch of power metal buzz words. There is an excellent mix of fast, shredding paces and slower classic metal arrangements.
HammerFall confirms that they know who their forefathers were with songs like the Dio-esque “Ex-Inferis” and the great traditional metal jams “Live Life Loud” and “Tainted Metal” (How the hell did Anvil or Judas Priest never come up with that song title?). They even had me thinking of the late Dimebag Darrell with the opening and intermittent riff on “Evil Incarnate”. Listen to it and you’ll know exactly which parts of the song I’m talking about. This album has small bits of all the things that make metal great.
For those that like it, there is plenty of shredding and guitar harmonization on tracks like “Hector’s Hymn”, “Origins” and “Wildfire”. Unlike newer era bands, these elements are never overdone. The one thing that I truly love about (r)Evolution are the chorus solos from guitarists Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren. Just to clarify, chorus solos are guitar solos that repeat the notes of the sung chorus. This is a lost art form in metal as it can be very difficult to do well. Dronjak and Norgren play enough notes so you know that they are playing the chorus but they also add other nuances helping the solos stand totally on their own. The drumming from Anders Johansson is nearly flawless whether he’s playing fast or slow and Frederik Larsson works his bass lines in perfectly. The other great thing is that the keyboards are used a lot more sparingly than other bands. When they are employed, they are there to complement the rest of the music, not overshadow it.
I absolutely loved the soaring vocals provided by lead singer Joacim Cans. This is a guy that totally gets it. His singing is amazingly strong but he is careful to never overshoot unless the song calls for it. “Live Life Loud” is a perfect example where a particular musical arrangement needs over the top vocals. Cans knows exactly when to pump it up and when to scale it back.
Although I enjoyed the blending of paces that (r)Evolution had to offer, songs like “(r)Evolution” and “Winter is Coming” came off just a tick too slow. That’s not to say that they are bad songs by any means. They are well written, intricately arranged and wonderfully executed. It’s just that, at least for me, they messed a bit with the flow of the album. That is my only complaint and really it’s a non issue. I really enjoyed the fact that the album consisted of eleven tracks and they were all complete songs. No intros, outros or interludes. That is something you rarely see in metal these days.
It’s nice to see that HammerFall continues to understand the history of heavy metal and the elements that will always stand the test of time. Too many current power metal acts have thrown these fundamentals to the side in favor of trying to create the fastest music or the most over the top vocals possible. (r)Evolution brings just the right amount of power metal fused with all the best aspects of traditional heavy metal. Top tracks include “Hector’s Hymn”, “Ex Inferis”,” Origins”, “Tainted Metal” and “Wildfire”. It’s too bad that there are so many bands that seem to forget how metal got to where it is in the first place. HammerFall’s latest album validates the importance of metal’s past while bringing the best that power metal has to offer.
(r)Evolution will be released on September 2nd via Nuclear Blast. Take a listen to the album when you get a chance and sound off with your opinion in our comments section.